Stabenow's Maritime Heritage Legislation Spotlights Tourism Value of Michigan Lighthouses
Legislation introduced this week by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow seeks to protect Michigan's more than 120 lighthouses and promote them as key elements of Great Lakes maritime heritage and attractive tourism destinations.
"The Great Lakes are an inseparable part of Michigan's identity and history, and its beautiful lighthouses are the most visible symbols of that maritime heritage," Stabenow said. "Although their initial purpose was to guide ships, Michigan's lighthouses now draw thousands of tourists -a role perhaps just as important as navigation in aiding Michigan's economy."
Stabenow noted that Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state, and she proposes with her legislation to foster a joint federal, state and local partnership to protect these lighthouses and promote the Great Lakes maritime culture.
"The economy in Michigan faces numerous challenges, and our small communities are even more dependent than ever on tourism dollars," she said. "We must help them by ensuring that there are coordinated efforts to protect Michigan's lighthouses. If we don't, we risk losing these symbols of our history."
The Michigan Lighthouse and Maritime Heritage Act would require the National Park Service to work with the state of Michigan and local communities to study and make recommendations to Congress on the best ways to promote and protect Michigan's lighthouses and maritime resources.
Congress would then enact the study's recommendations on how to best increase tourism to these lighthouses and maritime resources, such as linking them with a designated statewide trail. The study also would identify funding sources for Michigan communities to preserve and restore their lighthouses and maritime resources.
Michigan's oldest lighthouses date back to the 1820s. Michigan also is home to the nation's only freshwater marine sanctuary, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which protects more than 100 shipwrecks in an area of Lake Huron known as "shipwreck alley."
Stabenow noted that her legislation has strong bipartisan support from all of Michigan's members of Congress.